Replacement Heifer Selection and Development

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Properly selecting replacement heifers can make or break a cattle producer. Every farm has different production scenarios and goals, so priorities can vary from farm to farm, however, here are some tips to help you maximize your success.

  • Cull heifers born late in calving season.
    • These girls will be youngest at breeding, calving, the lightest in weight and usually the last to breed back, post calving
  • Cull heifers that are high headed, nervous or have an attitude
    • We don’t need dangerous, flighty animals. We want protective, attentive mothers, but don’t compromise on attitude for safety’s sake.
  • Cull heifers born from cows with feet and leg problems, cows with calving problems, or cows with poor udder quality.
    • Eliminating these now will pay off in the long run, adding durability and longevity to your cow herd.
  • Cull abnormally small heifers and heifers that don’t keep themselves up well.
    • We want heifers that will reach 65% of their mature weight at breeding, and have the capacity to be efficient in a forage situation.
  • Cull heifers that don’t meet the “eye-test” or are genetically inferior.
    • Select heifers that are balanced and feminine and are backed by productive, efficient parents that meet your marketing standards. Take frame, mature size, milk production of parents into consideration.
  • Cull heifers that are twin to a bull and any heifers with small pelvic scores.
    • Freemartins are typically infertile and a waste of resources. Have heifers pelvic scored to avoid calving issues.

By selecting heifers from older proven cows in your herd, you will be keeping those that fit your management regime and can thrive on the resources you have available. This will offer improvements in longevity and consistency over their lifetime production. It can be helpful to keep the breeding season short for heifers and cull those that test open. This will insure that only the most fertile representatives are retained, following your head, rather than your heart.

By using the criteria above, producers both large and small can make marked improvements in the productivity of their cowherd, thus greater profitability, which after all, is what we are striving for.